Magnesium 101: What You Really Need to Know

inflammation stress supplements weight loss Mar 18, 2024
magnesium food sources


Magnesium is one of those nutrients we don’t hear about too much at the doctors office, despite the fact that it’s the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies and an essential co-factor in over 300 biochemical processes, including bone, nervous system, cardiovascular and hormonal health.

It is an important anti-oxidant and part of the electrolytes you may have read about. It is also critical for regulating the immune system and inflammation, earning it a top mineral to consider when learning how to build an Autoimmune Plate or expanding your supplement regime beyond Vitamin D.


So what role does magnesium play?

Let’s find out…

  • Magnesium helps regulate the immune system and inflammation.
  • It activates vitamin D.
  • Magnesium helps lower stress levels (a key driver for fatigue and flares with autoimmune) and restore healthy stress hormone levels. In fact, magnesium is often referred to as the “relaxation mineral.” Serotonin, which is a natural mood stabilizer found mostly in our digestive system, requires magnesium for its production.
  • Magnesium is used in hospitals and given to patients intravenously who are having heart palpitations – the magnesium helps slow down their heart rate.
  • Magnesium is necessary for numerous chemical reactions in our body, including making DNA.
  • Magnesium helps maintain our brain function by relaying signals between our body and our brain. It prevents overstimulation of nerve cells, which could result in brain damage.
  • Magnesium helps regulate muscle contractions – it is opposite to calcium to help our muscles relax. Magnesium is commonly recommended for treating muscle cramps.
  • Magnesium helps bone building cells and parathyroid function, which then regulates calcium (people with a higher magnesium diet often have higher bone density). 
  • It helps alleviate migraines & headaches (people who suffer from migraine usually have lower levels of tissue magnesium and serum as compared to those who do not).
  • It also relieves PMS (when combined with B6) and can offset insomnia, bloating, weight gain, leg swelling.
  • Magnesium helps produce collagen (hello anti-aging, ligaments, skin, bone and tendons). The more collagen in your system, the stronger those parts will be.
  • Magnesium has also been linked to helping reduce the risk of many diseases, including arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Without enough magnesium, these systems can malfunction, leading to un-necessary and avoidable internal imbalances and symptoms. Some studies say that up to 68% of adults don’t get enough magnesium in accordance with the recommended daily intake (RDA).


How much magnesium should we be consuming on a daily basis to keep our body functioning as it should?


There is no satisfactory test for magnesium levels as they don't take into account stored magnesium in cells. Recommended dietary allowance for adult men is 400 - 420 mg/day, while adult women should consume 300 - 320 mg/day.

There can be consequences from consuming too much magnesium or not enough magnesium:

  • Too much magnesium can cause various symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and irregular heartbeat. In this case, you might not want to take a magnesium supplement if you are already getting enough magnesium through your food and other sources.
  • A magnesium deficiency or electrolyte imbalance can lead to various health conditions, including muscle twitches and cramps, osteoporosis, fatigue, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.


Now that we know the importance of magnesium, where do we find magnesium?


Good news! There are plenty of magnesium-rich natural food sources found in an autoimmune-friendly diet:

  • Pumpkin seeds (my personal favourite, I sprinkle them on salads and eat raw)
  • Raw almonds and cashews (raw nuts are better than roasted nuts – roasted nuts lose magnesium during the roasting process)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black beans, peas
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, buckwheat, oats)
  • Herbs (coriander, chives, dill, sage)


Magnesium Supplements


It is important you discuss supplements with your doctor. While magnesium is helpful in many situations, like all supplements, it can be contraindicated with certain medications or needs to be taken at least 2 hours away from medications. In the case of magnesium, you need to speak with your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist if you're taking potassium-sparing diuretics, oral bisphosphonates, tetracycline or quinolone antibiotics.

Different types of magnesium also have different actions in the body and it's important to know what-does-what so you're not wasting your money.

For example, magnesium oxide and citrate have laxative actions on the body which can be helpful for constipation. However, you need to drink a lot of water with these as it can make joint pain worse. People will often buy these types of magnesium thinking they will help with sore muscles or bone health, but it simply makes them poop as not much is absorbed beyond the digestive tract and the draw water to the bowel. 

For aches/pains and enhanced mood/sleep you're best selecting magnesium malate, glycinate or bis-glycinate. For metabolic concerns with blood sugar, diabetes or heart disease, magnesium taurate is one to consider and for mood, anxiety and memory, magnesium threonate is the most expensive of the bunch, but also very effective.

You can also get magnesium in topical forms, which helps with pill fatigue. Magnesium Chloride and Sulfate can be used in baths and in sprays (localized areas).

With any supplement, make sure you are working with someone trained in supplementation to ensure you’re picking the best type and dosage for your situation.

I had one client who did not tolerate supplements, so we used magnesium salts, baths and creams as her go-to to get her daily dose. I had another who purchased magnesium oxide from the pharmacy on her own (purchased on sale) thinking it would help her joints, but all it was doing was causing diarrhea. When we switched forms, she had a much better experience!

While supplements are helpful, remember, you can't out-supplement the wrong diet or option for your body. If you need support with your nutrition, lifestyle or supplement plan, reach out to schedule a complimentary call.

In the meantime, here's an easy recipe for Creamy Pumpkin Seed Butter (a great source of magnesium).


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